Theodicy in Jerusalem

Susan Neiman

in Hannah Arendt in Jerusalem

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 2001 | ISBN: 9780520220560
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520923669 | DOI:
Theodicy in Jerusalem

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This chapter offers a reading of the book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, in terms that are unavailable on its surface. It begins with a summary of the modern problem of evil in order to place the issues raised by Arendt in traditional context. It then discusses Arendt's use of theological discourse and her remarks about philosophy in order to outline the constraints her project must face: If Arendt's work provides a (substitute for) theodicy, it does so in radically modern form. Her decided antipathy to Hegelian attempts to justify Creation through history is as much rooted in Kantian metaphysics as in the experience of the Shoah and must entail rejecting any hint of suggestion that this world is the best of all possible ones. The chapter then proceeds to examine her discussion of evil as a piece of moral psychology and philosophy whose goal is to preserve individual moral responsibility without relying on a notion of intention. Finally, it discusses the ways in which that discussion serves practical and theoretical ends. It responds to concrete political dangers Arendt correctly anticipated while providing a metaphysical framework that allows us to preserve the stance she ascribed to Lessing: not entirely at home in the world, but committed to it.

Keywords: Hannah Arendt; Kantian metaphysics; evil; theological discourse; philosophy; moral psychology

Chapter.  12104 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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